Monday, January 17, 2011
Le Cordon Bleu = The Plan
This journey begins in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. As wild parrots fly by my window to make their morning calls, the French Embassy telephones to inform me that my student visa was granted.
Move to Paris for eight months to study Le Grand Diplôme, the highest degree in culinary and pastry arts, at Le Cordon Bleu.
This crazy idea started when I was telling my husband (for the millionth time) about my dream to go to culinary school. But I didn't want to go to just any culinary school. I wanted to go to the culinary school. Le Cordon Bleu. And I didn't want to go to just any Cordon Bleu. I wanted to go to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the city that has inspired some of the most influential and creative people of all time.
He, being the most generous, supportive, and fantastic man in the world, said, "Do it!"
In order to tell you the whole story about this dream of mine, I should start from the beginning. I remember eating (and enjoying) spinach crepes at age six, when my friends thought they were "yucky" and "weird". I was raised eating escargots and drinking Möet Chandon (even if a bit watered down) before the age of ten. The protagonists of this exposure were my mother, a fantastic cook, and my father, a fantastic eater.
I eat street food, restaurant food, and everything in between. Macaroni and cheese from a box (which I first ate at the age of 26, when my husband introduced me to the stuff), to warthog in peanut sauce in a remote village in Equatorial Guinea, Africa. Fat ants in Colombia and fried grasshoppers in Mexico. Boeuf Bourguignon in a Parisian cafe, and lovely spots of tea in London, Karachi, and Beijing.
I was born and raised in Colombia, one of the most beautiful places in the world. My family is from Cartagena, the most beautiful place in the world. Cartagena's history dates back forever and ever as a melting pot for West Africans, Middle-easteners, Native Americans, and Europeans, among others. The food of Cartagena is a product of its diverse immigration history. A common dinner in Cartagena, for example, is a pot roast cooked in the French style, served with coconut rice and plantains, which are West African dishes that I also ate in Equatorial Guinea, Africa, by the way. But I'll leave that for another blog entry.
Inspired by the social context in which I grew up, I went on to study two Masters degrees in social anthropology, one at the London School of Economics (LSE). The LSE is a petri dish for international development workers, one of which I became. I worked at an NGO in Washington DC on education programs in Africa and Latin America. A couple of years later, I moved to Trinidad and Tobago because my husband was offered a job working for an international organization. I left my job and dedicated myself to being a wife and mother. Shortly after our son was born, I realized I didn't want to continue working at the same pace as before he was born. That's when I considered realizing my dream about attending culinary school.
I'd like to think of myself as an amateur food anthropologist. I have much to learn, however, and thus my plan to become a chef. I am not a foodie, nor am I an expert in anything. What I am is an ethnographer who enjoys learning about food, its history and context, and who wants to become a chef. In this blog, I plan to chronicle my experience living in Paris and studying at Le Cordon Bleu as well as talk about the food of my travels. Trinidadian cuisine, for example, is fascinating to me, so look for entries about it during the next few weeks before I head off to Paris.
Here we go...